A Matter of Blood by Sarah Pinborough – Review
I know I’m way behind on this one, but for a couple of years I avoided reading Sarah Pinborough’s A Matter of Blood, book one of The Dog-Faced Gods trilogy. I was afraid that, in comparison to the author’s BFS Award-winning novella, The Language of Dying, (which dredged up the classic fairy-tale image of a unicorn from the depths of the collective unconscious and shoved it onto the page in all its raw and wild glory) a crime-thriller with supernatural overtones might seem shallow. Then I opened it. I read the first paragraph. The first page. By the end of the first chapter my imagination was hungry for the next. It went on like that for the rest of the book. I would read it when I should have been writing. When I should have been talking to my family at the dinner table. I’d wake up at two in the morning and, instead of trying to go back to sleep, I’d use the excuse of ‘insomnia’ to guiltily read for another hour or so. Just one more chapter. Just one more chapter.
Then it ended.
Luckily, it’s the first of a trilogy.
Set in a near-future London where the all-too-familiar financial crisis and austerity have nearly wiped out any pretence at civilized society, the story follows Cass Jones, a troubled London DI on the hunt for a serial killer who has rather a fixation with flies. Especially their eggs. (Eeew. I mean, really—just eeew.) What Cass doesn’t know is that he’s connected to this killer in ways he can’t imagine, and when this case dovetails into another, involving what appears to be an accidental shooting of two young boys, he begins to suspect nothing is as it seems.
Now, little is unique in a tortured cop pursuing a sick serial killer on a case that gets personal. What is unique is Pinborough’s skill at racing this story along, all the while drip-feeding more and more eeriness into each chapter, until at last we’re left wondering whether not just the serial killer but Cass himself is even human. Why, for instance, can he see the occasional flash of gold in people’s eyes? There’s a suggestion here that we humans are a failed bloodline, walking around half-asleep, unaware of who our real masters are, so that what started as a manhunt widens out into what seems a global conspiracy involving beings that could be angels, could be demons, but are more likely some weird mixture of the two. Are these the Dog-Faced Gods of the trilogy’s title? Dunno. They have human enough faces. (And we actually find out what the Dog-Faced Gods are at one point, or at least one possible explanation for them, but I’m not giving that part away.)
Little of course gets answered in this first book other than some of the superficial details of the two cases Cass works on, which leaves a whole world of strangeness left to unfold over the next two novels. Keep an eye out for their reviews coming up. Also be watchful for reviews of Pinborough’s latest two, Mayhem and Poison, both of which have published in the last couple of weeks. (While I wish her well, I do hope she can’t keep this pace up. A novel a week? Sheesh! How’s a reviewer to cope?)